Editorial: Suburban schools take necessary step in heroin battle
It's taken some time, but the shift in attitudes toward combating the suburban heroin epidemic has taken hold.
And nowhere is that more evident than in our high schools, where parents and students are getting educated regularly as to the dangers and the prevalence of heroin.
But when education and awareness fail to make an impression, some schools are taking the extra step to make sure they keep their students alive.
As reported by Daily Herald columnist Kerry Lester this week, Stevenson High School is among those who have taken that extra precaution by approving for use opioid antidotes like naloxone. which is injected into the hip, thigh or upper arm using a device like an EpiPen.
Lester reports that Stevenson will train its nurses to use the devices.
"I think this is a recognition of the reality that heroin is much more of a factor in teens' lives than it was 20 years ago," said Stevenson spokesman Jim Conrey. "We see this as a precautionary measure," he added, noting that there has not been a heroin overdose on campus during his 22 years at the Lincolnshire school.
Stevenson, however, isn't the only school that understands the epidemic is real and potentially deadly for its students. Barrington High School is planning to do the same as Stevenson.
In DuPage County, Wheaton-Warrenville Unit District 200 (two high schools) and Glenbard High School District 87 (four high schools) have naloxone in their nurses' offices as does Downers Grove's two high schools. Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 high schools do not have naloxone in their nurses' offices, but school resource police officers from the Naperville Police Department carry it.
Erica Loiacono, District 200's director of public relations, told the Daily Herald's Jessica Cilella that District 200 was the first school district in DuPage County to get equipped with naloxone.
She said all of the district's school administrators, school nurses, support staff and athletic trainers were trained on how to use it last school year. All district facilities, including the district office, are equipped with it.
Why is this so important? In 2013 in DuPage County, 46 deaths were attributed to heroin overdose. Last year, the county's death toll fell to 33, but only because of the availability of naloxone. Without it, 66 people would have died from heroin in DuPage, according to the county coroner.
In Lake County, where Stevenson High is located, officials say naloxone has saved the lives of 37 people since made available to first responders in late 2014.
There are many facets to the war against heroin addiction. Making naloxone available in our high schools is a common sense piece of that ongoing battle.